Sometimes as teachers we use language and terms that, although commonplace for us, can be confusing for anyone not working in education. So below is a guide to some of the terms and language that are used in education and what they mean.
Students stay in compulsory education from the ages of 5 through to 18. In line with recent government changes, students finishing Year 11 in 2013 will now be required to stay in education for a further year until they are 17. Every year group after that will be required to stay in education until they are 18.
This time is broken down into 5 Key Stages.
Key Stage 1 – Reception to School Year 2 (formally Infants)
Key Stage 2 – School Years 3 to 6 (formally Juniors)
Key Stage 3 – School Years 7 to 9
Key Stage 4 – School Years 10 and 11
Sixth Form or Higher Education (College)
Key Stage 5 – School Years 12 and 13
Throughout each Key Stage and school year students will encounter a number of different experiences. These are explained below.
The National Curriculum
The National Curriculum is a framework used by all schools to ensure that teaching and learning is balanced and consistent. It sets out:
- the subjects taught
- the knowledge, skills and understanding required in each subject
- standards or attainment targets in each subject – teachers can use these to measure a student’s progress and plan the next steps in their learning
- how a student’s progress is assessed and reported
Within the framework of the National Curriculum, schools are free to plan and organise teaching and learning in the way that best meets the needs of their students.
Cognitive Abilities Tests (CAT tests)
Students sit these in the first term of Year 7. CAT tests are a series of short tests that assess a student’s basic ability in these areas: verbal (words), quantitative (numbers) and non-verbal (shapes) reasoning tests. A student’s combined CAT score (average CAT) is often the best initial indicator of a student’s potential ability in school and as such these are used, in conjunction with the student’s performance at primary school and in class, as the basis for placing students in sets and predicting future grades. All CAT testing at John Kyrle is now done on-line which allows for a quicker provision and analysis of results.
Standard Assessment Tests (SAT tests)
At the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6) and the end of Key Stage 3 (Year 9) all students in UK schools used to sit SATS tests. These were a formal assessment of a student’s ability in English, Maths and Science and allowed schools to measure the progress that students were making. SATS grades achieved at Year 9 were then used, in conjunction with a student’s CAT scores, to make a more accurate prediction of GCSE potential.
However, in 2008 the Government abolished compulsory SATS testing at Key Stage 2 and 3. Schools can still choose to give students a formal assessment at this age, and many still do, or they can ask teachers to make an assessment of the student’s ability based on their experience of the child. These are called Teacher Assessed Levels.
At John Kyrle students still sit formal tests at the end of Year 9 in English, Maths and Science.
Teacher Assessed Levels
Throughout Key Stages 1, 2 and 3, students are expected to make progress through a series of levels. There are 8 National Curriculum levels in total and the expected standards at each level are set by the government. By the end of Key Stage 2 (Year 6) most students are expected to have attained a Level 4 in most subjects. However, given that all students have different abilities, this can vary.
After initial early assessment in Year 7, all students at John Kyrle will be aware of their End of Key Stage Target Level. This is the level that staff feel they can achieve by the end of Key Stage 3 (end of Year 9). In addition to this ‘Target Level’ students will be told whether they are currently working to target or not. This is the information given on a student’s annual academic report.
Whilst a student’s End of Key Stage Target Level should remain the same throughout Key Stage 3, it is possible for it to move dependent on a student’s on-going process.
Students will have the opportunity to gain a number of different qualifications during their time in education. The range and type of qualifications available to students is growing and it is important for students to choose the type of qualification that best suits them. The main ones are as follows:
These are the most common qualifications for 14-16 year olds and students at John Kyrle study for their GCSEs in Years 10 and 11 and then take their exams at the end of Year 11. GCSEs can be taken in any subject offered in school and most students take GCSEs in a range of subjects. Although the course structure will be different within each subject, the basic content will be similar. Most GCSEs combine three elements:
- Teaching of the course content (syllabus) during lesson time
- Completion of coursework or a controlled condition assessment
- Assessment via an exam. This can be either modular exams throughout the course or a final exam at the end of the course.
In some subjects such as Technology and Art, a greater emphasis is placed on the coursework than in other, non-practical, subjects.
As with Key Stage 3 Target Levels, at GCSE level all students will be set both Minimum Target Grades (MTG) and Aspirational Target Grades (ATG). These are based on both their performance at Key Stage 2 and 3 and the progression made throughout these stages and are set at the start of Year 10. GCSE grades range from A* to G and U (unclassified)
Having achieved suitable qualifications at 16, students will then be given the opportunity to follow a smaller number of subjects (usually 3 or 4) at A-level. During the first year of Sixth Form (Year 12), students study for an AS (Advanced Subsidiary) Level qualification in each subject. In Year 13 many drop their fourth subject in order to concentrate on three A2 qualifications. Both AS and A2 levels need to be completed to achieve a full A-level. For most students, studying for A-levels gives them the experiences and qualifications that then allow them to progress to university and post-graduate study.
A range of applied (practical) qualifications are available to students between 14 and 16 years of age. The courses are provided through a partnership with local colleges and schools; for example the hairdressing course run at John Kyrle and the Hospitality and Catering course run at St. Mary’s RC School in Hereford. Students are required to apply for a place on the courses and will have the opportunity to work towards a range of qualifications including BTECs. These are an equivalent qualification to a GCSE but the method of assessment is slightly different.
As they move from Key Stage 3 into Key Stage 4 (Year 9 into Year 10), students are given some degree of choice over the courses and qualifications that they choose to study. Students actually make their choices mid-way through Year 9 ready to start in Year 10. All students at John Kyrle follow the core subjects of English, Maths, Science and PE. Students following the non-applied route are also required to choose a Technology subject and a Language. In addition to these subjects students can then choose to study additional GCSEs (for example; History, Geography, Music) or a mix of GCSEs and applied/ vocational courses such as construction.
Students are not expected to make these choices on their own. Options guidance booklets are sent out to all students with their Year 9 reports and an Options Evening is held in early March where all subject teachers will be available to answer students’ and parents’ questions. Students also receive on-going support and advice from their tutor, their Head of Year and Mr Boyd who is responsible for timetabling and the Options process.
Glossary of other terms
MTG – Minimum Target Grade
All schools recognise that it is important to identify the individual learning needs of certain students. These include students with:
AEN – Additional Educational Needs
These include students with medical issues, students with poor attendance, students identified as being Gifted or Talented, students who are Young Carers and students with English as an Additional Language.
SEN – Special Educational Needs
These include students with learning or language difficulties, students with autism and students with social or emotional difficulties.
EAL – English as an Additional Language
These are students for whom English is not the first language spoken at home.